9 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Ethical KiwiSaver funds prove more resilient

7:33 am on 9 April 2020

KiwiSaver funds invested solely in ethical companies are outperforming other funds amidst market volatility.

Barry Coates

Former Green MP Barry Coates, who founded Mindful Money, a charity which provides information on where KiwiSaver funds are invested. Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

An analysis of returns for the first quarter of 2020 shows growth funds were on average down more than 12 percent, but growth funds that were ethically invested lost on under 8 percent.

Conservative and balanced funds also performed better.

Mindful Money founder Barry Coates said the results showed ethical investments did pay.

"Most people think 'there has to be a cost to going ethical with my investment' but it's absolutely not true and there's a big body of evidence over the last decade that shows that," he said.

"It's been shown in international studies recently with regard to Covid-19 and we wanted to apply those studies to the New Zealand market and what we found was the same results... so in a way you can have your cake and eat it too - you can do good things for the environment and society and earn good returns."

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Mindful Money is a charity that has strict criteria as to what fits as an "ethical" fund. It used the average returns from approved ethical providers against the quarter one data from finance research house Morningstar for all providers.

Ethical funds take into account environmental, social and governance factors.

Coates said ethical investments performed better for a reason.

"If you look at the relationship between sustainability and good management, most of the companies that New Zealanders know and trust are those that also have good sustainability practices, are committed to doing well for society and putting something back.

"So they have loyal customers, they have employees who are motivated to do well, they have no environmental liabilities. So generally, the research shows that there's a good relationship between good management and good financial returns and strong ethical practice."

CareSaver chief executive John Berry said ethical investments alongside active management were a recipe for success.

"We have no exposure to fossil fuels and that's been a fantastic place to be because - believe it or not - fossil fuels have been the worst sector to be invested in, in the last 10 years."

"Good companies look after their employees, have really strong risk-management around the environment, which leads to higher productivity and a stronger brand with consumers.

"There's also research which shows ethical companies are much more resilient in a downturn and fewer of them will go bankrupt."

Morningstar averages:

  • Conservative -2.1%
  • Balanced -8.9%
  • Growth -12.4%

Mindful KiwiSaver fund averages:

  • Conservative -1.8%
  • Balanced -6.9%
  • Growth -7.8%

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